Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is a chip off the code block. Scroll it, choom!
by Bob Johnson
Don’t wait for me to rant about it. No need to invest 100 hours in the video game first. If you are even vaguely interested in gaming, computers, guns, science fiction, or metamodern romance, it’s time to chip in. That’s Edgerunner lingo for Watch! This! Show!
New crew, same old Night City. Moments before V explodes on the scene in 2077, we take a close look at David Martinez, a kid who gets his pocket change selling exotic VR replays to smarmy corpo kids. The closest thing he has to a friend at school is some choomba who beats him up for being poor. His mom, Gloria, pays his school tuition with black-market implants she scrapes off carcasses as an EMT.
Dave’s life kinda sucks, and it pretty much doesn’t stop sucking, though it does happen to change when a certain high-grade military implant shows up in his life. Pretty soon, he’s bouncing off the walls with lightning speed, attracting the attention of a certain fatally cute edgerunner, who opens David’s eyes to subway scams and the world of merc work. It doesn’t take long for a job or two to get over his head, but as luck would have it, he lives to fight another day.
For a while, anyway. As true as it’s been since the first edition of Cyberpunk in 1988, a runner in Night City doesn’t last long. If you honestly had the choice, would you let the bullets or the daemons take you?
Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is in fact a good show, a show made by the best people, that evokes the gaming experience in just the best way. Even though I’ve heard a fair set of arguments that this show is ‘just an ad’ for the game, this is not remotely in the same category as your average dime-novel Halo Reacharound cash-grab. This is real art. It is completely cohesive, whether you choose to see it as a fully fledged anime or a glorified video game cutscene. And I’d strongly argue the former over the latter.
Speaking of art, I should mention how well done the animation is, 2D first with mostly seamless 3D elements, all steeped or borrowed heavily from the game’s aesthetic and art assets, with some wall-breaking Triggerisms tossed in that work amazingly well. 10 years ago, it might have been tempting to do a work like this as some low-grade machinima. They absolutely don’t do that here.
Ultimately, the measure of a show is not how 2D or 3D it is, it’s the whether it was made with real, human emotions, and asks real, human questions. Cyberpunk: Edgerunners has tons of those little zen moments that meditate on the nature of experience. In this glitzy, near-future, artificially-enhanced surreality, what does it even mean to be human?
Fuck Yeah Look It Up!
Based on the Cyberpunk franchise created by Mike Pondsmith
Produced by Trigger and CD Projekt RED, distributed by Netflix
Streaming (press time): Netflix